Interest in the expansion and development of passenger rail in the US is experiencing a renaissance, with a lot of excited talk across the industry. The hottest topic? The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) Corridor Identification and Development (CID) program.
Back in September at the (AASHTO - American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials) Council on Rail Transportation, there was standing room only at the CID workshop. And no wonder; with unprecedented funding for passenger rail made available through the 2021 Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL), everyone is eager to know how this funding will be used and which projects the FRA will progress.
Well, today the FRA answered that question. Projects from across the country – including Front Range rail in Colorado, four routes in Ohio, seven routes in North Carolina, and many more – have all received a federal funding boost to help progress their passenger rail ambitions. A total of 69 passenger-rail corridors across 44 states have received funding in this first round of the CID program.
But as is often the case, one question answered leads to many more to be addressed. Much of the industry now shifts its focus to the “how”. How do we make this work? How do we implement rail in parts of the country that perhaps haven’t had passenger rail service before, or not for many years? How do we deliver significant service expansion in a manner that is reliable and safe?
These are vital questions, and it is absolutely right to be asking them. However, at Steer, we also want to ensure appropriate focus on the “why”. Why should the FRA (and ultimately Congress) not just progress projects through this initial stage of the CID program but ultimately end up providing billions of dollars in investment? Why should communities be excited about this funding opportunity, and in many cases, why should voters agree to fund their portion of required investments?
Steer has been at the forefront of answering the “why” for decades. We have supported the FRA directly in developing critical tools (such as the FRA’s CONNECT model); developed best practice guidance for the US Department of Transportation regarding ridership, costs, and benefits of passenger rail service; supported Amtrak in establishing their Route and Service Methodology for developing its intercity passenger rail network; and progressed thinking on the evaluation of passenger rail service benefits across the world.
This is an exciting time for passenger rail in the US. At Steer we are equally excited and look forward to supporting the industry in ensuring this unprecedented funding opportunity maximises the benefits to our communities.
If you’d like to talk about the FRA CID program and how Steer can help, please get in touch with Mark Mukherji, Joint Head of Rail, North America or Masroor Hasan, Joint Head of Rail, North America.